Dressing à la française, on the cheap.
December 4, 2011 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Please help me find cheap, reasonably stylish clothes in France.

So I'm in France for the next four and a half months. Yay! Problem? I don't have the faintest clue how to shop for clothes here.

I'm female, early 20s, on the heavier side with big feet (42/44 for clothes and 41/42 for shoes), which makes shopping for clothes here interesting.

Back home, I either got clothes made to order or picked a few high-quality pieces up at a few trusted boutiques and wore them to death. Neither is an option here, since I don't make all that much money.

So, a two-part question:

one: where do I get decent clothing on the cheap? My style's pretty laid-back, either jeans and tops or skirts/dresses and boots, more simple and classic than boho or girly.

two: speaking of boots, I desperately need a new pair. I'm willing to spend some money on this (150-250 euros, but I'd prefer staying on the lower end of that range) but I'm a bit lost because it feels like there's a shoe shop everywhere I turn. Does anyone have a rec for a place to get a classic flat/low-heeled black boot, something like these Fryes?

I don't do online shopping much, so I'd prefer brick-and-mortar recommendations. Also, I'm in Arras but I can get to Lille and Paris fairly easily.

Thanks in advance!
posted by Tamanna to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
For clothes, maybe La Redoute or Promod would suit you? I'd go to a department store like BHV for the shoes or you could try Jonak.
posted by hazyjane at 10:55 AM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

H&M and Zara are great for inexpensive t-shirts and sweaters. Size 42/44 is about the top of the range for both, although H&M has a BiB line that includes larger sizes.
posted by neushoorn at 10:56 AM on December 4, 2011

Oh, just thought of another shop that would be good to check out: Camaeiu.
posted by hazyjane at 11:04 AM on December 4, 2011

Seconding Promod. It's my favourite French store. On preview, Camaeiu is also good. I also have and like clothes from Zara and Mango.

You'll be there for the winter sales (les soldes). Stores are only allowed to have sales twice a year: once in the winter and once in the summer. The winter soldes last a month and things keep getting cheaper every week. Looks like this year in Pas-de-Calais they start January 11 and end February 14.
posted by carolr at 11:09 AM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

As another Hexagonite, I thoroughly second the store recommendations for Promod and Camaeiu and H&M. Zara I find way too trendy, not cheap, and made for very tall skinny women.

Geographically, if you end up traveling, I wonder if it is also easy for you to get to Belgium? Everything is cheaper in Belgium than in France - including chain stores and even grocery stores - and the people seem to be shaped differently on average so you may find a better range of sizes. From Lille, you can cross the border with a 1.70EUR or so bus ticket (Menen, which is rather small) or a train (Kortrijk, which is larger).
posted by whatzit at 11:49 AM on December 4, 2011

For boots, try Beryl, lots to choose, often good deals. There's one on rue de Rivoli.
posted by bwonder2 at 2:48 PM on December 4, 2011

In addition to the other suggestions, my wife, an American whose German and Eastern European ancestors were stockier than les Gaulois, likes Desigual and Uniqlo (they have a store near Madeleine).
posted by brianogilvie at 2:49 PM on December 4, 2011

I've had great experiences with shoes from André. Otherwise there's a good online shop for shoes now, called Javari, which carries with Hush Puppies and Rieker, brands that tend to be kinder to a woman's foot than French-made shoes. That said, I love Palladium boots (founded in France as a rubbermaker originally! their rubber soles are awesome).

Zara - yeah, no, I'm a tall thin woman and I can barely find clothes, much less shoes ("ow ow ow" just thinking of the flats I tried) that fit there. Then they fall apart a few months later.

Finding women's jeans in France can be a pain in the behind if you have shape to your legs, to the point where I can only find ones that fit at Esprit. (I'm a cyclist, wear 40/42. Other brands have thighs that get stuck on my calves...) Esprit is an American brand, but the clothes they sell here really do fit with French styles, so don't feel bad shopping there!

Nthing Camaïeu, and Promod has nice stuff too, however, beware their quality. Their fabrics and construction have been getting cheaper while their prices go up. For the same price points, Esprit has much better quality stuff, in similar styles.

Monoprix – yes, the supermarket! – has surprisingly good stuff at times. Etam can be nice as well, though they too tend to suffer from the stick-legged trousers issue.

If you want to spoil yourself by looking at several brands for hours on end, drop by Galeries Lafayette. They have clothes by Kookaï, Esprit, and other mid-range brands, as well as higher-end, and also shoes from mid- and high-range brands. It can help better define what you're looking for and what works for you!
posted by fraula at 1:58 AM on December 5, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for the suggestions so far, everyone! Keep 'em coming, please!

Thankfully, I'm not in the market for jeans, just tops, dresses and skirts. I imagine jeans-hunting would be a nightmare in itself here...

I saw a place called Tati the other day. Is it any good?
posted by Tamanna at 2:30 AM on December 5, 2011

Tati: Only if you would buy clothes at Walmart or Target when in the States. Tati does not have stuff worth the prices they charge, and I would limit my purchases there to things other people don't usually see (boring underwear, socks). Also, style...? Meh. I think you'll be better off with the previous recommendations if you are looking for tops/dresses/skirts.
posted by whatzit at 3:32 AM on December 5, 2011

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